One of a series of programs from DK designed to take the boredom out of often dreaded school subjects, this one is devoted to spelling. The theme is an intergalactic spelling game show. Kids travel to different planets where they find a number of activities:
A nice feature allows the choice of one or two players, and the game lends itself well to playing in the form of a competition because of the game show theme that involves earning points. The program keeps track of high scores, so it will work well with kids who are competitive types (even if it's against themselves). Personal Progress is also available.
- On Planet Arachna, kids meet up with a smart-talking spider. Here they are asked to spell a spoken word by placing letters of the alphabet on each spider on the web.
- Planet Aquatica (pictured above) features the Godfather and Tony the Tuna. This activity is fast arcade action as kids spell words (for example, they are told to spell the word "witch" as in "the witch flew on her broomstick") by clicking on bubbles that float upward rather fast.
- Planet Amphibia features a game similar to Hangman. Only the number of letters in a word are given, and kids choose letters from the hanging leaves in the jungle as they try to guess the correct letters to form a word.
- On Planet Anagrama, kids unscramble words by moving "astro" bunnies into the holes in the correct order.
There are 3 difficulty levels to choose from and 3 ways to play the game, as follows:
Kids can choose the word groups they need to practice from different descriptive categories (such as parts of the body, family words, etc.) as well as different word types (for example, words with the sound group ch/tch, ue/ew, kn/n, etc.).
- Choose Astro Adventure which is a sort of "free play" mode that allows the players to go to any of the four planets and to stay as long as they like.
- The Incredible Space Challenge is a mission mode or competitive format, although kids do get to choose the order of the planets they can go to.
- Word Attack is an arcade style spelling game that involves identifying correctly spelled words from a bunch of bad spellings as the words come flying toward the screen. This game also occasionally pops up in between planets in the challenge mode.
Our kid testers found some of the activities not as interesting - for example, one 8 year-old found the Planet Anagrama activity quite tedious the bunnies each had to be moved up and then put individually in the holes. Another problem mentioned by a parent of a bright 10 year-old tester whose weakness is spelling was found in the Planet Arachna activity. The spider can be quite sarcastic when a child makes a mistake. The boy tried to spell "whistle" and got 4 of the letters wrong - and that fact was brazenly pointed out to him. His second try was better but not perfect, and the spider said "You're joking with that, I hope" unfortunately, he wasn't.
The options are wonderful and the activities, although there's nothing really new presented (they are versions of traditional games like hangman and unscrambling words), provide some challenge. The theme of the game an intergalactic game show has been done before, but kids do seem to like it.
Minimum requirements are a 486/33, 8 Mb RAM, and 2X CD ROM, and 9 Mb of hard drive space. Mac users need at least a 68040/25, System 7.0+, 8 Mb RAM (12 Mb recommended for System 8.0+ PPC), 2X CD, and 17 Mb of hard drive space.
spelling skills, hand-eye coordination
Although there's lots of drill and testing in the program, the very nature of the subject of spelling necessitates it. Lots of words are covered, and problem areas can be focused on.
Kids were generally pleased with the games, but the program will be most appealing to fans of arcade-style games. Humor is used throughout the game, and it's actually quite funny at times.
The program is well-designed with lots of options and easy navigation. Difficulty levels are clearly defined and a choice is given as to what mode to play the program in.
We found this program to be a bit less engaging than others on the market. Still, fans of word games will be motivated to play.
Spelling practice can be helpful, and this program delivers on the promise to take some of the drudgery out of the subject.